What Is Hodgkin’s Disease?
Hodgkin’s disease (HD) is a type of lymphoma, which is a blood
cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps the
immune system get rid of waste and fight infections. HD is also called Hodgkin
disease, Hodgkin lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
HD originates in white blood cells that help protect you from
germs and infections. These white blood cells are called lymphocytes. In people
with HD, these cells grow abnormally and spread beyond the lymphatic system. As
the disease progresses, it makes it more difficult for your body to fight infections.
HD can be either classic Hodgkin’s disease or nodular lymphocyte-predominant
Hodgkin’s disease (NLPHD). The type of HD is based on the types of cells
involved in your condition and their behavior.
The main cause of HD isn’t known. The disease has been linked to cell
mutations, or changes, as well as to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes
can occur at any age, but it most commonly affects people between ages 15 and
40 and people over age 55.
The overall survival rate for HD has increased due to advances in
treatment. The five-year survival rate is about 85
percent, and the 10-year survival rate is approximately 81
What Are the Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Disease?
The most common symptom of HD is swelling of the lymph nodes,
which causes a lump to form under the skin. This lump usually isn’t painful. It
may form in one or more of the following areas:
- on the side of the neck
- in the armpit
- around the groin
Other symptoms of HD include:
- night sweats
- itchy skin
- unintended weight loss
- persistent cough
- pain in the lymph nodes after consuming alcohol
- enlarged spleen
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.
They can be signs of other conditions, and it’s important to get an accurate
How Is Hodgkin’s Disease Diagnosed?
To diagnose HD, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask
you about your medical history. Your doctor will also order certain tests to
make a proper diagnosis. The following tests may be done:
- imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans
- lymph node biopsy, which involves removing a
piece of lymph node tissue to test for the presence of abnormal cells
- blood tests, such as a complete blood count
(CBC), to measure levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and
- immunophenotyping to determine the type of
lymphoma cells that are present
- lung function tests to determine how well your lungs
- an echocardiogram to
determine how well your heart is working
- bone marrow biopsy,
which involves the removal and examination of marrow inside your bones to see
if the cancer has spread
Once an HD diagnosis has been made, the cancer is assigned a
stage. Staging describes the extent and severity of the disease. It will help
your doctor determine your treatment options and outlook.
There are four general stages of HD:
- Stage I (early stage) means that cancer is found
in one lymph node region.
- Stage II (locally advanced disease) means that
cancer is found in two lymph node regions on one side of the diaphragm, which
is the muscle beneath your lung. It may also indicate that cancer was found in one
lymph node region as well as in a nearby organ.
- Stage III (advanced disease) means that cancer is
found in lymph node regions both above and below your diaphragm. It may also
indicate that cancer was found in one lymph node area and in one organ on
opposite sides of your diaphragm.
- Stage IV (widespread disease) means that cancer
was found outside the lymph nodes and has spread to other parts of your body,
such as your bone marrow, liver, or lung.
How Is Hodgkin’s Disease Treated?
Treatment for HD typically depends on the stage of the disease.
The main treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation. Radiation
therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy
involves the use of medications that can kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs
may be given orally or injected through a vein, depending on the specific
Radiation therapy alone may be sufficient for treating early
stage NLPHD. If you have NLPHD, you may only need radiation since the condition
tends to spread more slowly than classic HD. In advanced stages, targeted therapeutic
drugs may be added to your chemotherapy regimen.
A stem cell transplant may also be used if you don’t respond to
chemotherapy or radiation. A stem cell transplant infuses healthy cells called
stem cells into your body to replace the cancerous cells in your bone marrow.
After treatment, your doctor will want to follow up with you on a
regular basis. Be sure to keep all your medical appointments and follow your
Risks of Treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease
Treatments for HD can have long-term side effects and can
increase your risk of developing other serious medical conditions. Radiation to
the chest can increase your risk of:
- breast cancer
- lung cancer
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
You should get regular mammograms, cholesterol tests, and heart
disease screenings to check for these conditions.
It’s also important to attend regular follow-up appointments with
your doctor. Make sure to tell them about any concerns you may have about long-term
side effects and what you can do to help reduce your risk.
Long-Term Outlook for People with Hodgkin’s Disease
Advances in the treatment of HD over the past few decades have
greatly increased the survival rate. According to the American
Cancer Society, the relative survival rates for all people diagnosed with HD
are as follows:
- The one-year survival rate is about 92 percent.
- The five -year survival rate is about 85 percent.
- The 10-year survival rate is about 81 percent.
The following are the five-year survival rates for the different stages:
- Stage I HD is about 90 percent.
- Stage II HD is about 90 percent.
- Stage III HD is about 80 percent.
- Stage IV HD is about 65 percent.
These rates may vary depending on the stage of the disease and
the age of the individual.
Dealing with an HD diagnosis can be challenging. Support groups
and counseling can help you manage your anxiety and provide a safe place for
you to discuss concerns and feelings about your experience. The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society also provide
resources for people who’ve recently been diagnosed with HD.